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January 16, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)--ECM World Watch helps you be an informed citizen about important issues globally and nationally. As part of our commitment to reflect all voices and views, we include links to a wide variety of news sources representing a broad spectrum of political, religious, and social views. Top world and U.S. headlines include:




Read more for excerpts and links to full stories.


Obama to offer most comprehensive gun control in decades (Washington Post)

January 15, 2013--President Obama on Wednesday will formally announce the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations as he presses Congress to mandate background checks for all firearms buyers and prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

The announcement will set off a fierce confrontation with Congress over an issue that has riven American society for decades. Obama’s far-reaching firearms agenda has at best tepid support from his party leaders and puts him at loggerheads with Democratic centrists.

Under Construction: The World's Largest Thermal Solar Plant (NPR)

January 9, 2013--According to photographer Jamey Stillings, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will be the "world's largest concentrated solar thermal power plant" when complete at the end of this year. That's if we want to get all technical.

In plain terms: There's a huge solar plant under construction in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and Stillings has been documenting the process since the very beginning. Did you know this was happening? I didn't.

Can police use your silence against you? Supreme Court to decide. (CS Monitor)

January 11, 2013--The US Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether prosecutors can use an individual’s refusal to answer police questions as evidence of guilt at a subsequent trial if the silence came prior to being taken into police custody.

While the high court has long held that criminal suspects who are in police custody have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, the court has never decided whether a similar right protects interactions with police prior to an arrest.

Computer Users Should Disable Java 7 Owing To Security Flaw, Experts Say (NPR)

January 11, 2013--Millions of computer users who run the most recent versions of Oracle's Java software should disable the product owing to security flaws, says the cybersecurity section of the Department of Homeland Security. The agency says, "Web browsers using the Java 7 plug-in are at high risk."

For our Newscast desk, Steve Henn filed a report from Silicon Valley in which he says that "in the last few months security researchers have discovered a series of bugs that can allow bad actors to take over machines that are running Java in a Web browser and steal your identity."

From Corn Belt To Main Street: The Drought's Far-Reaching Grasp (NPR)

January 12, 2013--The U.S. had its hottest year on record last year. That heat, combined with the relatively dry winter that came before, has brought a historic drought.

From forest fires and low crop yields, to infrastructure and recreation, the drought has been costly, with early estimates putting the cost at between $50 billion and $80 billion.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared a disaster area in more than 1,000 counties, and now the drought is hitting America's most important waterway — the Mississippi River. Water levels are so low that the Army Corps of Engineers is taking emergency action to keep the river navigable.

Widow sues psychiatrist in Colo. theater shootings (U-T San Diego)

January 15, 2013--The widow of a man killed in the Colorado movie theater shootings has sued a psychiatrist who once saw suspect James Holmes as a patient, saying the doctor should have asked police to detain Holmes before the shootings.

Chantel Blunk filed suit in Denver federal court Monday alleging psychiatrist Lynne Fenton was negligent in not asking police to place a 72-hour psychiatric hold on Holmes. The suit says Holmes told Fenton on June 11 that he fantasized about killing people.

For energy solutions, 'think small' (+video)(Christian Science Monitor)

January 13, 2013--As part of an ongoing series of conversations about building America's energy future, the Monitor hosted a roundtable discussion in Washington on Dec. 12, 2012, with several clean-energy experts. The video above is an excerpt from panelist Josh Freed, director of the Clean Energy Program at Thirdway, a moderate think tank based in Washington. Mr. Freed speaks about his vision for a bipartisan clean energy policy in America. The discussion was sponsored by Areva, a Paris-based energy company. 

'Python Challenge' Asks Floridians To 'Harvest' Snakes (NPR)

January 12, 2012--For the next month, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is asking residents to tangle with the Burmese python. They say it's a "harvest," but really they're asking people to hunt as many pythons as possible.  


Northern Irish youths pelt Catholic church in latest "flag riots" (Reuters)

January 14, 2013--Protestant youths in Northern Irelandthrew petrol bombs at homes and a church in a Catholic area on Monday night as the latest outbreak of violence in Belfast took on increasing sectarian overtones.

At least one police officer was injured during violent clashes between pro-British and Irish crowds who threw rocks and other missiles at each other, police said in a statement.

U.S. Provided 'Technical Assistance' In Botched French Raid, Obama Says (NPR)

January 13, 2013--The U.S. provided "limited technical support" to French troops in their failed bid to rescue a hostage being held by an al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia, President Obama said Sunday in a letter to Congress.

Here's more from the president's letter [pdf]:

"United States forces provided limited technical support to the French forces in that operation, but took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage. United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed. These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation. The U.S. forces that supported this operation left Somalia by approximately 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 11, 2013."

Bad Even For Beijing: Smog Hits Extreme Levels (NPR)

January 12, 2013--Beijing's air quality reached extremely hazardous levels Saturday, and officials are warning people to stay indoors, NPR's Louisa Lim reports.

"Beijing's skies are shrouded in a blanket of spectral grey smog, which blocks visibility and makes the eyes sting," Lim tells our Newscast Desk.

She says the air quality level is literally off the charts: The U.S. embassy's index stops at 500, but the levels recorded Saturday hit "beyond index," above 800.

Shi'ite protests spread across Pakistan after killings (Reuters)

January 13, 2013--Shi'ite Muslims agreed on Monday to begin burying nearly 100 of their people killed three days ago in one of Pakistan's deadliest sectarian attacks after the prime minister said he would comply with their demands to sack the local government.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met leaders of the Shi'ite Hazara community in a mosque near the site of Thursday's twin bombings in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province, and told them he would dismiss the province's chief minister and cabinet.

Palestinian premier urges Arabs to pay pledged aid (U-T San Diego)

January 13, 2013--The Palestinian prime minister warned Sunday that his government could fail to meet its obligations to its people because of a cash crunch, and urged Arab countries to deliver on promised aid.

Salam Fayyad met with Arab League members to discuss ways to raise the $100 million they pledged earlier to his Palestinian Authority. Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby said seven countries have responded favorably, but he did not name them.

Storm heightens crisis for Syrian refugees (Jerusalem Post)

January 10, 2013--The strongest storm in at least 20 years hit the Middle East this week, turning an already complicated refugee crisis in Syria and its neighboring countries into an even more critical emergency.

A humanitarian crisis in Syria due to the country’s civil war has grown even worse as a storm this week has reportedly caused dozens of deaths. At least 17 people have died as a result of the storm in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. Roads have been flooded, schools and businesses closed, and normal life has been slowed or stopped in various areas. The weather though, has not stopped the fighting in Syria.

Preacher alarms many in Egypt with calls for Islamist vice police (Reuters)

January 9, 2013--Many Egyptian viewers were horrified when preacher Hisham el-Ashry recently popped up on primetime television to say women must cover up for their own protection and advocated the introduction of religious police.

That an obscure preacher could get publicity for such views was seen as another example of the confused political scene in Egypt since the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak gave birth to a cacophony of feuding voices.


Women With A Berry-Snacking Habit May Have Healthier Hearts (NPR)

January 14, 2013--When it comes to supernutritious foods, the blueberry has long had a health halo floating over it.

Going back to Colonial times when Native Americans and English settlers ground up blueberries and added them to porridge, in both dried and fresh forms, there have been hints of health-promoting effects.

In recent years, regular consumption of berries has been linked to better brain health and a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

UCSD team invents brain cell breakthrough (U-T San Diego)

January 10, 2013--A UC San Diego-led research team has invented a shortcut to turning skin cells into brain cells, a method that may one day be of use in treating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's, Huntington's and Alzheimer's.

The team created functional neurons from skin cells by blocking production of a single protein. The method bypasses existing techniques that make neurons from stem cells derived from skin cells, a complicated process.

Flu reaches epidemic level in U.S.: CDC says (Reuters)

January 11, 2013--Influenza has officially reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with 7.3 percent of deaths last week caused by pneumonia and the flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The early start and fast spread of flu this season - especially after 2011-2012's very mild outbreak - has overwhelmed doctors' offices and hospitals, forcing some patients to wait through the night to be seen in emergency departments.

Pap Test May Detect More Than Just Cervical Cancer (NPR)

January 11, 2013--Pap tests, which are routinely used to detect cervical cancer, may be capable of spotting ovarian and uterine cancers as well, according to a new paper published inScience Translational Medicine. Study co-author Luis Diaz, of Johns Hopkins, discusses the findings.

FDA requires sleeping pill makers to lower dosage (KXII)

January 11, 2013--The Food and Drug Administration is requiring makers of Ambien and similar sleeping pills to lower the dosage of their drugs, based on studies suggesting patients face a higher risk of injury due to morning drowsiness.

The agency says new research shows that the widely-used sleeping drugs remain in the blood at levels high enough to interfere with driving, which increases the risk of car accidents.

Diet drinks 'linked' to depression (BBC)

January 8, 2013--Experts are questioning whether diet drinks could raise depression risk, after a large study has found a link.

The US research in more than 250,000 people found depression was more common among frequent consumers of artificially sweetened beverages.

The work, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting, did not look at the cause for this link.

Does lead poisoning make you violent? (BBC)

January 9, 2013--It may sound fanciful, but a growing body of evidence seems to suggest there may be a link between violent crime and - no, not policing strategy, or sentencing reform, or even trends in drug abuse, but - exposure to lead.

Yes that's right, the base metal element lead, Pb, or more exactly the lead-based chemical compound Pb(CH2CH3)4 added to petrol to make car engines run more smoothly.

U.S. Ranks Below 16 Other Rich Countries In Health Report (NPR)

January 9, 2013--It's no news that the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. But a magisterial new report says Americans are actually less healthy across their entire life spans than citizens of 16 other wealthy nations.

And the gap is steadily widening.

"What struck us — and it was quite sobering — was the recurring trend in which the U.S. seems to be slipping behind other high-income countries," the lead author of the report, Dr. Steven Woolf, tells Shots.

UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center Listed among Nation’s Best Heart Hospitals (Scoop San Diego)

January 9, 2012--The Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center located at University of California, San Diego Health System has been named among "100 Hospitals with Great Heart Programs" by Becker's Hospital Review, a business and legal news publication for hospital and health system leadership.

According to Becker’s editorial team, the hospitals chosen for this list “offer outstanding heart care” and were selected based on clinical accolades, recognition for quality care and contributions to the field of cardiology and cardiovascular surgery.

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